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Scene Stealing

[whitespace] All-ages shows make use of the 'burbs

By Michael Learmonth

EARLIER THIS WEEK, the South Bay lost another all-ages music venue as the concert space behind the Musician's Warehouse in Camden was closed by San Jose police. The venue, a garage behind the music store, was allegedly trashed when a show played by hardcore acts Noothgrush, Eat Shit and Die, Squaller and Exum erupted into stripmall mayhem.

The loss crimps an already-pushed local music scene, leaving local bands to grovel for a place to play. Local label Tomato Head Records had a show scheduled in Camden this Saturday and will now have to pull off the show at the much-smaller Saratoga Teen Center.

As the cities across Silicon Valley develop their neighborhood downtowns into amusement parks for adults, the kids are left with the suburban multiplexes, the bowling alleys and the malls. In the "upscale" downtowns, often the only nod to a kid's existence is the presence of threatening signs: no skating, no biking, no loitering. In San Jose's new Guadalupe River Park, in-line skating is welcome, but skateboarding prohibited.

"Teenagers up to about 18 really don't have much do to," says Alan Salmassian, the KSCU DJ known as Mister Salamander. "Downtown isn't really friendly to teenagers, and the rest of Silicon Valley is pretty much suburbia."

For teenagers wanting to see live music in the South Bay, there are all of two regular venues: the Cactus Club in San Jose and the Edge in Palo Alto. And those are still primarily bars. Since kids can't contribute to the liquor profits, all-ages live music shows are infrequent and expensive.

So it is in the most isolated reaches of suburbia that the all-ages music scene thrives. Community centers and record stores deep in the 'burbs have become makeshift venues for all-ages concerts. Nineteen-year-old promoter Eric Fanali has put on shows at low-cost sites in Saratoga, Los Gatos, Campbell, Milpitas, Gilroy and the Camden neighborhood in San Jose.

"When Eric started booking community centers, there were all these kids who had nothing to do," recalls Salmassian, himself part of the scene since the mid-'80s. "Since he's started doing it, others have started putting on community shows: shows at cafes, at the Gaslighter. For a while Eric was the only one doing shows. Other people saw what he was doing and said, 'Hey, if he's doing it, then I definitely can, too.' "

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From the November 25-December 2, 1998 issue of Metro.

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